Days numbered for print industry, warns FT veteran

Andrew Gowers, ex-editor of The Financial Times for less than a week, has launched a blistering attack on his past colleagues in the traditional print industry, branding its authors equivalent to today’s vinyl record sellers.

Writing in the London Evening Standard, just days after stepping down as editor of the FT citing “strategic differences” with parent company Pearson, Mr Gowers accused newspapers of being in denial about the internet’s powers.

He labeled “half of what used to be called Fleet St,” as guilty of not realising the true power of the digital platform, despite declarations to the contrary from Rupert Murdoch, owner of The Times and his ex-lieutenant, Andrew Neil, former editor of The Sunday Times.

“Working in print, pure and simple, is the early 21st century equivalent of running a record company specialising in vinyl,” Mr Gowers wrote.

“The future lies with the internet, and those newspapers that survive will be those that produce truly original content and learn fastest how to translate it into the all-encompassing, all-singing, all-dancing new medium of the Web."

Mr Gowers, who had a 22-year history at the FT including his four-year post as editor, said he would not be returning to the world of newspapers.

"I am focused on what comes next. And I have already all but decided that, whatever it is, it will not involve ink printed on dead trees.

"It is of course, quite unlikely that anyone would be foolish enough to ask me to edit a newspaper again. But if they did, the answer would be no.”

His comments point to the fact that under his editorship, the newspaper continued to lose revenue, but losses have reduced since 2004, prompting Pearson to reportedly expect its most visible publication to break even later this year.

Reflecting on his departure, the publishing house said in a statement: “Andrew Gowers is stepping down from the role of editor of the Financial Times because of strategic differences between himself and Pearson.”

"We're very grateful to Andrew for his distinguished 22-year career at the FT," added Marjorie Scardino, company chief executive.

"As editor he led the integration of print and online media, extended our international reach and steered the FT through the most difficult markets in its history."

Since his resignation, and subsequent replacement by the FT’s US editor, both Mr Gowers and the publishing giant’s executive board have refused to elaborate on the “strategic differences”

Yet later writing a diary account in the New Statesman about quitting the FT under such hushed-up circumstances, Mr Gowers returned to his views over the internet’s inevitable dominance of the daily news agenda.

“The world - and the media especially - is changing at internet speed and the pressures are immense. Those in leadership positions who do not adapt fast enough to change of whatever kind will end up being overtaken by it,” he wrote.

There was also a tribute to brand FT and its industrious so-called ‘vinyl sellers.’

“The paper and its brand are the most amazing calling cards. Its high-calibre and hard-working journalists probably have access to more people in authority in more countries, continents and fields of endeavour than any other publishing organisation in the world. That access makes the word of the FT more trusted than that of most other newspapers anywhere, whatever Andrew Neil might say.”

He later added his views on the development of FT.com – the Financial Times website, which has been widely regarded as Mr Gowers most impressive achievement since the ex-Reuters junior joined the newspaper in 1983.

“Far more people access material produced by the FT through the online medium than have ever accessed it in print,” he said, speaking to Press Gazette.

"Advertising on FT.com is beginning to become a significant factor in the overall business. That's really exciting.”

Mr Gowers hinted he may now turn his talents to ‘something completely different’ following advice from friends who say his current position affords him the chance to “have a second go at something else.”

In the meantime, he plans to spend more time with his wife and two children - already hinting in the New Statesman’s editorial that he was enjoying new found freedoms.

The news heavyweight added that attending a post-performance drinks do with his son after watching the new Harry Potter film unearthed a caption writer’s dream – “Harry Potter and the Last Perk,” he mused.



 

11th November 2005

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